Buttigieg is first openly gay presidential candidate to win delegates

Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to supporters after the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3 in Des Moines.

Kylee Haueter

Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg became the first openly gay presidential candidate to win delegates in the presidential race following the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses and capped that achievement with more delegate wins Tuesday.

Buttigieg is not the first openly gay presidential candidate. Political consultant and gay rights activist Fred Karger unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination in 2012, ultimately losing to eventual nominee Mitt Romney. Karger failed to receive any delegates, though.

Winning the Democratic nomination would be a step forward when it comes to equal representation of the LGBTQIA+ community in the government. As of now, there are nine openly gay members in Congress seven in the House and two in the Senate. There has never been an openly gay president or vice presidential nominee for either major party.

In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Buttigieg said he “didn’t set out just to be the gay president,” but he recognizes the powerful example he could be setting for young kids “peeking around the closet door wondering if this country has a place for them.”

Buttigieg has faced backlash for being openly gay in politics. Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh commented on Buttigieg’s sexuality on his show. 

Then they’re sitting there, and they’re looking at Mayor Pete, a 37-year-old gay guy, mayor of South Bend, loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage,” Limbaugh said. “And they’re saying, ‘okay, how’s this gonna look, a 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband onstage next to Mr. Man Donald Trump? What’s gonna happen there?'” 

Buttigieg has also received backlash from members of his own party.

At one Iowa caucus precinct, a voter tried to retract her vote for Buttigieg after learning of his sexuality.

I don’t want anybody like that in the White House,” the caucusgoer said, after a precinct captain told her Buttigieg is married to a man.

Buttigieg has also faced backlash from some Democrats who say perhaps he hasn’t done enough for representation.

Iowa State College Democrats President and senior in biological systems engineering Sehba Faheem said while his candidacy is a breakthrough, Buttigieg hasn’t paid respect where it’s due.

Pete Buttigieg’s rise is a historic breakthrough for the LGBTQ+ community, similar to Hillary Clinton’s win at the end of the 2016 primary was a breakthrough for women in the presidential field,” Faheem said. “From 2016, this Democratic field has seen more women gain traction than ever before. I hope the same happens for LGBTQ+ representation in the next presidential election. Pete Buttigieg proves that there is a path to gain public approval in the primary as a gay man.”

Faheem said Buttigieg has not “paid respect” to the communities he wants to represent.

“His campaign has done so well because he hasn’t had to challenge the norms,” Faheem said.

Buttigieg is currently in a strong position, leading in the number of pledged delegates nationally, which are used to earn the Democratic Party nomination, but will face voters once again Feb. 22 in Nevada, where former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen Elizabeth Warren and Tom Steyer poll stronger in the RealClearPolitics polling average of likely Democratic caucusgoers.